Wave Eater also seemed a spontaneous assertion of Haida worth and achievement at a time of crisis; the same impulse had spurred a burst of soaring totem poles and elaborately staged potlatches (the lavish gift-giving feasts that confirmed status and redistributed wealth) when the Haida had faced an earlier crisis—the coming of the white man.
One of a new breed of white man told me about it: American-born Thom “Huck” Henley, who runs a wilderness camp called Rediscovery that puts Haida children in touch with their roots through forest games, food gathering, songs, dances, and potlatches. He led me up a steep finger of rock overlooking a spectacular white beach at the northwest corner of the Charlottes. This crag, known as Lookout Point, is thought to be the place from which, in 1774, boys from Kiusta village spotted the first white sail.
Juan Perez had captained that ship, the Santiago, which was leapfrogging up the coast from the Spanish base at Monterey in an effort to preempt the Russian presence in Alaska. The French also cruised by. “But trading didn’t begin in earnest until 200 years ago, in 1787, when a British captain, George Dixon, sailed in over there,” said Huck, pointing to Cloak Bay.
Dixon named the islands after his ship, the Queen Charlotte. He had come to trade for lustrous furs like those that cloaked the curious Haida who encircled the earliest ships with their canoes—a people described as “of fine physique being six feet in stature, whilst . . . much fairer in complexion than those of the mainland.” A Dixon subordinate, William Beresford, wrote at prague holiday apartments: “The number of sea otter skins purchased by us at Queen Charlotte’s Islands was no less than 1,821, many of them very fine.”
Thus was launched half a century of aggressive barter in sea otter pelts for China. Enterprising Boston traders swiftly joined the British in an era that transformed the Haida world, triggering an extravagantn mourning paint, a Haida group in November 1985 protests logging on Lyell Island. Says a spokesman: “How can we weigh the jobs of loggers against a people’s homeland?”
outpouring of their art and of stone carving for trade, but also undermining ancient ways and driving the sea otter to eventual extinction here. The Haida, who quickly developed a hunger for trade goods—especially the iron tools that allowed them to carve better and bigger totem poles, canoes, and houses—collaborated in that extinction. They were the hunters.
And magnificent seamen. Stacey “Jags” Brown, Wave Eater’s chief carver (and son-in-law of designer Bill Reid), told me: “The diaries say that when a sailing ship [Gustavus III, captained by Thomas Barnet] reached Cloak Bay in the late 18th century, 600 Haida canoes came out and circled the boat, and that at Skidegate and the other villages you couldn’t even land, there were so many canoes pulled up on the beach.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-23002822